This week British Columbians found out that our Auditor General, John Doyle, will not be reappointed. The problem is that only five MLAs, members of the Special Committee to Appoint an Auditor General, know why Doyle wasn’t re-appointed to a second term.
From the start of his first six-year term, Doyle has done an outstanding job. His very first report, which reviewed the release of private lands from Tree Farm Licenses, proved he was not going to mince his words. So much so, in fact, that then-Forests Minister Pat Bell said the Government was “offended” by the report.
Doyle was correct in his assessment of the government’s actions, and his scathing reviews of BC Hydro, oil and gas activity in the Peace, the sorry state of our forest inventory, and the under-reporting of B.C.’s deficit and debt were also on point.
If protecting the public interest were the only criteria for re-appointment, then it should have been a slam-dunk, but re-appointment requires unanimous agreement between the Liberal and NDP MLAs on the Committee. The problem with all of this is that whoever decided against re-appointment isn’t publicly accountable for their actions: their vote isn’t recorded publicly, and they don’t have to give any public explanation for their decision.
At the very least, the vote to not re-appoint an Auditor General must be made public so we know how MLAs on the Committee voted. An even better solution would be to require the Committee to publicize the rationale for its re-appointment decisions. Leaving it open to speculation is patently unfair to Mr. Doyle, who has been an outstanding public servant and protector of the public interest.
In the coming weeks, a series of reports will be released from the Auditor General’s office on such things as the Pacific Carbon Trust, the justice system, and the government’s decision to cover the legal costs of Basi and Virk’s defense during the BC Rail trial. Now that the Liberals have shot the messenger, watch for them to dismiss what will likely be more damning reports as sour grapes from someone they decided not to re-appoint.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.